Alternative To No

I read recently about a hotel that forbad its employees to say “No.” They taught their employees to use a different word when faced with a question that under usual circumstances called for a “no” answer. That word was “actually.” For example, “Do you have a hide-a-bed?” The easy answer would be “no,” but by using “actually” the person at the front desk was caused to think of a solution to the guest’s problem.

Reading this article caused me to think of not only my own language, but more importantly, my attitude. If I substitute negative language to expressions that reflect openness, I know I would be a better person and certainly make Suzy’s life better. “Maturing” seems to have made me grumpier and less flexible.

Maybe I can’t stop saying “no” entirely, but maybe I should try to say “actually” more often.

About the author

Webb Hubbell is the former Associate Attorney General of The United States. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller. His latest, “Light of Day” will be on the bookstands soon.


  1. Hi Webb.
    It’s Sharon, Bonnie’s mother. Good article about the value and implications of language. Removing negativity is a noble gesture and worthy of the openness and quest for solutions to problems that may not even have solutions . I would refer to the “big old book” and Matthew 5:37 which says, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” as in many cases time is of the essence. Little boys might say,” Should I jump off this cliff? I know I can fly.” The obvious answer is no which in the case of raising boys might challenge them to jump in my limited experience. I was blessed to be the mother of sweet little girls who evolved into kick fanny women. Wonder where they got that? When I taught Business and Professional Communications at The University of Tennessee Knoxville I challenged my students to eliminate personal language of any kind in an effort to take the focus off of the speaker and focus instead on others. No I, me, my, mine or any personal nouns or pronouns. The other person’s thoughts and feelings not your own. I don’t , however, agree that no reflects negativity. It does establish boundaries and is a fine and appropriate answer to a simple question. Do I love you, Suzy and the entire Hubbell family? The answer is ,yes ,I do. Walter and Missy are Bonnie’s dear and faithful friends. They hold a special place in my heart. I can’t believe we have children who have lived to see 50. My, how time flies. Peace, Sharon

    1. Sharon, so good to hear from you and to receive your thoughts. We are fortunate to have such great children, unfortunately time has flown by. The thought they they are fifty is mind-blowing. Hope all is well. Webb.

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